470 watts solar 400 wind on sailboat looking for ways to upgrade improve system

Options
Hi all I just discovered this forum wish I had found it sooner as I have been tinkering and experimenting and spending lots of money on alternative energy for my sailboat. At the moment I have 470 watts of solar broken up into 26 panels and an air 403 wind generator installed. All my panels are on the deck, cabin top, dodger though I am contemplating more locations. For monocrystalline panels I have 10x5 watt panels, 2x 25s, 4x15 canvas backed foldables on the dodger, 1x40 on the front scoop hatch and a 145 foreward of the mast on the cabin roof. I also have 4x15 watt semi flexible walkable panels on the cabin top where I would go to hoist sails etc. I have a 10 watt polyxstalline on my cabin hatch and another 20 polycrystalline I sort of bought of ebay by accident just sitting on the cabin top kind of randomly.

I have a stern mounted mast/ pole with the air 403 and am contemplating getting a side of pole mount and perhaps something like a 100-135 watt on there depending on weight and windage and what will fit the mount that I can find a bargain on.

We just had a 3 day blow and from my initial impressions the AIR 403 was useless as it would only spool up to high enough rpms for the voltage to get high enough to actually charge anything for a split second at a time every couple of minutes - most of the time it made a huge racket but the voltage was too low to charge. It may be I was using my multimeter wrong.

My charge controller is a morningstar duo and I have a 700 amp hour sealed lead acid battery bank. The wires are multistrand copper of assorted guages depending on application. I recently hooked the air 403 to the morningstar to see if it would show increased input when the turbine was freaking out and it seems like barely anything at all like a few miliamps very rarely. Tonight I will watch if the blow continues and see if the turbine is doing anything or is just a fancy looking noise machine. I just ordered the newer air X which was supposed to have voltage boosters so that the thing could actually charge something so I suppose we will see if the 403 was just poorly thought out. Am contemplating a second Air tower and would prefer a Breeze but can get a tower and Air X togethor for about half price of a new one. Am also researching the Rutlands but they seem pricey and get mixed reviews...

I would appreciate any feedback on how to improve things and what I might be doing wrong or right. Have bought virtually all of the components in this system off ebay so it was 3.5k or so so far probably a bit more with all the wiring etc.

Comments

  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: 470 watts solar 400 wind on sailboat looking for ways to upgrade improve system

    Welcome to the forum.

    You are probably not using your multimeter wrong: most small wind turbines are most useful as anchors than as power sources. Unfortunate, but true.

    One thing I see is that you've got quite a mixture of sizes and types of panels, but apparently only one charge controller? There's a possible problem, because when the Vmp is different on panels in parallel (as it is bound to be with such a variety) you lose efficiency. When the Imp is different on panels in series you lose efficiency. With many panels all over the place getting different shadows and sun exposure all connected to the one controller chances are very good that more than a few Watts are "going missing". It could be severe enough that some of those panels are just a waste because they're dragging the "better" ones down rather than adding anything to the mix.

    I'd suggest you do some tedious mapping of your panels: Vmp, Imp of each, it's location, wire size and run length and see what sort of salmagundi you've got going in to the controller. It may be advisable to use several smaller controllers instead, just so there's no "argument" as to input.
  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: 470 watts solar 400 wind on sailboat looking for ways to upgrade improve system

    Also, for a 700 Amp hour battery bank 470 Watts of panel is about half of what you'd need for full solar recharging. You might want to reevaluate your load requirements and see if you really need that much battery. It's quite a lot: around 4kW hours worth.
  • Mariner777
    Mariner777 Solar Expert Posts: 29
    Options
    Re: 470 watts solar 400 wind on sailboat looking for ways to upgrade improve system

    I had thought that something like this might be happening with such a smorgasborg of little panels. My thoughts were that having a collection of tiles scattered about would combat the shading that is inherent on a sailboat deck with rigging, mast and boom shadows etc sundialing around as the boat spins etc. I figured it would provide a more continous averaged sort of output then a few large panels. They are all in parallel. The voltages are higher on the mono then poly panels. Will a panel putting out a lower voltage actually drag another higher voltage panel down? I thought it was a sort of water pressure analogy where it would all be sort of forcing in the right direction but the more I think about it the more something must be up. My peak output was 16 Amps from this setup which is obviously much lower then 470 watts would be capable of under ideal conditions. However there is no point in the day where panels will not be shaded its impossible on this boat. Had considered possibly using a second mppt controller for larger mono panels esp if I put in a second wind gen pole and a couple large panels on side pole mounts back there. My understanding was the pwm controllers allowed different panel voltages as they dont actually modify the input voltage as an mppt controller would. My other challenge is to make all this seaworthy - some of the panels will likely be stowed while underway and deployed while docked or moored. I do not use shorepower - it worked last fall but something went wrong with it and it typically costs about 140 a month here so thats more money to invest in my solar system.

    I am dissapointed that small turbines are but boat anchors - the thought of charging during storms and at night is very attractive - a week of severly cloudy weather and everything in my fridge rots. At the moment consider my engine non existent and I refuse to use a honda am anti oil and carbon monoxide etc. For my power needs I am largely nocturnal due to a skin condition which has left me little pigment and thus extremely high cancer risk. I just ordered all LED replacement bulbs that should save a ton on lighting though I often use headlamps and such. The real power hogs appear to be my computer which is now a netbook with a DC charger, and my Engel MT45 fridge. It doesnt help its been about 110 here the past few days on the refrigeration front. I also have a pair of fantastic vent endless breeze fans and a cell phone. Before I installed the 145 I averaged about 50 amp hours a day in the bank off solar according to the morningstar duo remote meter and was slowly running down my batteries - what I fear is destructive discharging as they are expensive.

    One more note is I just moved a pair of sunsei 1500 ma panels and the backs of them were completely warped and the frames faded - most expensive panels per watt and the first two I ever bought since they were available at west marine the day I bought my boat.

    I still think there could be a way to make wind deliver something - even like 4 amps would be great the issue with the 403 seems to be the voltage is too low - would be great for charging a 6 volt system - hmmm theres an idea perhaps? Perhaps I need to switch to a Rutland but have read about voltage issues with those as well.
  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
    Options
    Re: 470 watts solar 400 wind on sailboat looking for ways to upgrade improve system

    From a "normal" 470 Watt array we'd expect about 25 Amps peak on a 12 Volt system. With the panels being exposed to different light levels and never all being in bright sun at once you're probably doing well to get 16 Amps.

    If the Vmp rating on the panels is within about 10% they'd work together. But when you add in the inevitable loss through wiring ... You still might be better off with several inexpensive small controllers. Divided up according to which ones get light at the same time, possibly connect like panels in series and up the Voltage then run through a small MPPT controller like this Morningstar unit: http://www.solar-electric.com/mosumpsochco.html A couple of those might just squeeze a bit more out of what you've got.

    Since your batteries are sealed you should consider a battery monitor http://www.solar-electric.com/metersmonitors.html to keep track of the state of charge. A bit more accurate than charge controller readings, once you get them programmed. Victron is another monitor which several folk here like: http://www.victronenergy.com/battery-monitors/

    The problems with small wind turbines are typically that there isn't as much wind as they need, or there's too much, or it's too turbulent, or the thing is just junk. On a boat you can reduce the turbulent factor by being out in the water. Height is still a problem: they do like to be high. Like 50 feet high. Not so good on a boat. One of the members here, john_p, is happy with his AirX - after making modifications to it. He's a clever sort. I think this is the tread he talks about it in: http://forum.solar-electric.com/showthread.php?t=9821

    Certainly a couple of "deployable" panels could help. You may want to evaluate the power vs. space of some of those older panels and see if it isn't time to fit something with a bit more "oomph".
  • Mariner777
    Mariner777 Solar Expert Posts: 29
    Options
    Re: 470 watts solar 400 wind on sailboat looking for ways to upgrade improve system

    Well I'm relieved to say that watching the output of the Air 403 through the morningstar duo charge controller its not as bad as I thought. I am seeing between 0-4 amps fluctuating but seeming to add at least around 1.3 amp hours per hour since I've been watching since the sun went down. Perhaps I didn't need to order the Air X - oh well good as back up or as a second unit for twice the oomph in storms and at night. I would love to sort of have a solar deck on my boat - something walkable and built into the deck and wired out of sight - probably be very expensive and tricky to pull off. My approach with a myriad of small tiles was a quick and dirty way. Perhaps glassing in a ton of cells with diodes to combat shading would be the ultimate - be great to harness every square inch in such a compact environment. Anyways my realistic upgrades will be a second Air X tower and two side of pole mounts - depending how the shopping goes will probably add 200-300 watts or so extra to the system. Might run the whole transom set up through a second charge controller I bought early on in the game before I actually started installing all this kind of regret the decision as it uses relays and is way overkill have a colemanair 160T diversion controller I might hook up to the wind towers and the panels back there and route them to the rear batteries in the lazarette... After that the only other conceivable place for more would be adding a bimini (not much space for one probably like 4 x 6 feet or so) and possibly panels on top of that and maybe running stainless between the stanchions on the lifelines but that will cost thousands and be quite unseaworthy. With the wind tower panels I will be up to around 700 watts of solar and a theoretical 800 watts of wind. With a Bimini I could push close to a 1000 watts of solar. The boat is becoming a bit of a monstrosity but am a mad scientist at heart just ordered a solar oven to cook with will be fun to use the suns energy for as many things as possible.
  • TenMile
    TenMile Solar Expert Posts: 62 ✭✭
    Options
    Re: 470 watts solar 400 wind on sailboat looking for ways to upgrade improve system

    Hi Mariner,

    You may find that this article helpful. It doesn't specifically talk about solar in a marine environment, however, talks about impacts from shadows, cabling etc

    http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/the-rv-battery-charging-puzzle-2/